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Written by
Julie Daniels
Motor insurance comparison expert
Last Updated
21 MARCH 2024
8 min read
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Great Britain road traffic accident report

According to government data, 333,296 road traffic accidents took place across Great Britain in 2022. That’s over 900 per day, marking a 3.9% increase from the previous year. But what are the most common causes of road accidents in Britain overall?

We’ve taken a closer look at official data to find out, creating a list of the top 10 contributing factors. Our research reveals which accident causes increased the most, as well as highlighting traffic accident hotspots around the country.

In light of the data, Julie Daniels from the car insurance team has also shared some tips to help drivers stay safe and avoid accidents on the road.

The most common causes of road traffic accidents in Great Britain

Rank Contributing factor Number of accidents: 2022 Prevalence of accident
1 Driver/Rider error or reaction 43,962 13.2%
2 Driver/Rider failed to look properly 24,137 7.2%
3 Behaviour or inexperience 17,615 5.3%
4 Injudicious action 14,767 4.4%
5 Driver/Rider careless, reckless or in a hurry 12,806 3.8%
6 Driver/Rider failed to judge other person’s path or speed 12,381 3.7%
7 Impairment or distraction 12,246 3.7%
8 Road environment contributed 7,635 2.3%
9 Loss of control 7,540 2.3%
10 Poor turn or manoeuvre 7,466 2.2%

1. Driver/Rider error or reaction

The number one cause of road accidents in Great Britain during this time was errors or incorrect reactions from drivers, which account for 13.2% of all incidents (43,962 in total).

Driver errors include things like manoeuvring dangerously at junctions and incorrect reactions like overcorrection or sudden braking. It’s important to remain vigilant and focused while driving to anticipate and respond to hazards effectively, reducing the risk of collisions.

2. Driver/Rider failed to look properly

According to the data, drivers or riders failing to look properly when on the road caused 24,137 accidents, which amounts to 7.2% of total accidents overall.

To make sure your full attention is on the road, it's essential to use all available resources, including mirrors and windows, and consistently check for blind spots.

Drivers should also minimise potential distractions and focus solely on the vehicle. For example, being sure to put your electronic devices away, can help increase awareness and reduce the likelihood of accidents caused by overlooked hazards.

3. Behaviour or inexperience

The third most common cause of accidents in 2022 was driver behaviour or inexperience, which led to a total of 17,615 collisions (5.3%). In fact, learner drivers or inexperienced drivers alone accounted for 2,701 accidents, a 9% increase from the year prior.

These figures highlight the importance of keeping calm and confident behind the wheel. If you struggle with confidence when driving, it could be worth taking an advanced driving course. These are designed to hone your skills and can help improve confidence with trickier things like driving at night or on motorways.

4. Injudicious action

Injudicious action is used to describe a collision that occurred due to a lack of judgement, such as speeding or disobeying signs, signals, and road markings. In 2022, these actions led to 14,767 accidents in Great Britain (equal to 4.4%).

Speed limits are set for a reason, and it’s illegal to ignore them. Despite this, 5,171 accidents in 2022 were caused by drivers and riders exceeding the speed limit — 5.1% up year on year.

5. Driver/Rider acting carelessly, recklessly or in a hurry

Being in a hurry to get somewhere is no excuse for reckless driving. Unfortunately, however, 12,806 accidents in 2022 (3.8%) were caused by drivers or riders acting carelessly, recklessly or in a hurry.

Pedestrians acting in this manner can also increase the potential risk of an accident. In fact, the latest data shows that pedestrians being careless, reckless or in a hurry led to 2,003 accidents — which could have been prevented by slowing down and paying attention to the road.

6. Driver/Rider failed to judge other person’s path or speed

Drivers failing to correctly assess another driver’s intention or speed caused a total of 12,381 accidents (3.7%) in 2022. This marks a -1.9% decrease from the previous year, however the overarching figure still indicates a need for drivers to pay close attention to other road users.

Always keep plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front of you, so you have time to react safely. Check your surroundings regularly, use indicators consistently to signal your intentions, and try to anticipate potential manoeuvres from other drivers or riders.

7. Impairment or distraction

Impairment or distraction while driving caused 12,246 crashes throughout 2022, accounting for 3.7% of total accidents reported. This includes drivers being under the influence of drink or drugs, having impaired vision, or being distracted by devices such as a mobile phone.

Alcohol is a leading cause of impairment, with 4,505 accidents caused by drivers or riders being impaired by alcohol. Driving while under the influence of drink or drugs is illegal, and the penalty is severe. Never get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol or any other substance that impairs your judgement.

8. Road environment

Not all accidents can be solely blamed on road users — in some situations, the condition of the road can be a contributing factor. This might be because of inadequate road markings or signs, road layouts, or deposits on the road such as mud or oil.

According to our research, road environment contributed to a total of 7,635 collisions in 2022. With this in mind, it’s vital for drivers to always be aware of their surroundings and prepared to react quickly if needed.

9. Loss of control

It’s important to ensure you are in full control of your vehicle whilst driving, as losing control while behind the wheel led to 7,540 accidents in 2022.

Being in control means staying vigilant and following the rules at all times — including driving at a safe speed, always keeping your hands on the steering wheel and manoeuvring appropriately for the weather conditions.

10. Poor turn or manoeuvre

Drivers and riders not taking the time to safely turn or manoeuvre their vehicle caused a total of 7,466 incidents.

When performing any manoeuvre, be sure to take your time and use all windows and mirrors. You could even take time to refresh yourself on how to properly conduct manoeuvres to ensure the safety of yourself and others.

Contributing factors that have increased the most

Rank Contributing factor Number of accidents: 2021 Number of accidents: 2022 Difference 2021 vs 2022
1 Inexperience of driving on the left 134 218 62.7%
2 Dazzling sun 1,774 2,430 37.0%
3 Pedestrian wrong use of pedestrian crossing facility 447 574 28.4%
4 Pedestrian wearing dark clothing at night 429 529 23.3%
5 Crossing road masked by stationary or parked vehicle 876 1,047 19.5%
6 Pedestrian careless, reckless or in a hurry 1,677 2,003 19.4%
7 Visor or windscreen dirty, scratched or frosted etc. 100 119 19.0%
8 Driver/Rider illness or disability, mental or physical 1,628 1,930 18.6%
9 Slippery inspection cover or road marking 27 32 18.5%
10 Defective traffic signals 96 113 17.7%

Accidents caused by inexperience driving on the left saw the greatest increase between 2021 and 2022, skyrocketing by 62.7%. Driving on the left is mandatory in Great Britain, suggesting that this spike could be caused by an increased number of drivers from countries with right-hand driving regulations, who may not be used to driving on the left side of the road.

Next up, there was a 37% increase in accidents attributed to dazzling sun. Glare from the sun can pose a significant hazard to drivers' visibility, and it’s important to take proactive measures such as wearing sunglasses to prevent dangerous driving as a result.

Pedestrian-related accidents also experienced notable increases, with wrong use of pedestrian crossing facilities rising by 28.4%, and incidents related to pedestrians wearing dark clothing at night increasing by 23.3%.

Although not on the road themselves, pedestrians should ensure they are following road-safe practises, to reduce the risk of being involved in a collision.

The biggest accident hotspots in Britain

Rank Location Difference in number of accidents from 2021 - 2022 Number of accidents per 10,000 people
1 London 10.0% 26.2
2 Kingston upon Hull 11.6% 24.5
3 Blackpool -0.6% 23.3
4 Brighton and Hove 2.6% 23.0
5 Portsmouth 4.9% 21.7
6 Nottingham 4.1% 21.3
7 Birmingham 11.5% 20.9
8 Liverpool 10.9% 20.3
=9 Southampton 11.2% 19.6
=9 Derby 0.2% 19.6
=9 Leeds 14.0% 19.6
10 Bradford 0.3% 19.4
11 Luton 24.0% 19.1
12 Bristol 4.6% 18.5
13 Swindon 3.9% 18.2

London ranks as Britain’s biggest accident hotspot, experiencing a concerning 10% increase in collisions over a 12 month period, raising some concern about road safety measures and driving habits in the densely populated city.

Kingston upon Hull comes in second, showing a similar upward trend with an 11.6% increase in accidents, but slightly fewer collisions per capita compared to London (24.5). Conversely, Blackpool in third actually had a modest decrease in accidents (-0.6%), although the number is still high at 23.3 per 10,000 people.

Another coastal city, Brighton and Hove, came in fourth with a slight 2.6% increase in accidents, recording 23 collisions per 10,000 people in 2022. This is followed by Portsmouth (21.7), Nottingham (21.3) and Birmingham (20.9).

Guidance for preventing accidents

Julie Daniels from the car insurance team has shared some top tips to help drivers stay safe and avoid accidents on the road:

1. Maintain a safe distance

Always leave enough distance between you and the vehicle in front and at least a two-second gap on high-speed roads. This allows for enough time to react if the driver ahead suddenly brakes or slows down.

2. Eliminate distractions

Turn off your phone and don’t change the music while driving. In fact, if you’re struggling with any of the dash controls such as the heating or AC, pull over safely to adjust as necessary.

3. Keep your cool

Our research shows that over two in three (69.5%) drivers experience road rage, which can impact your ability to drive safely and cause accidents.

Tailgating and lack of indication are some of the top causes of road rage, so it’s important to not only control your own emotions but also be considerate of others.

4. Be confident

Confidence is key when behind the wheel, including confidence in controlling the specific vehicle you are operating, driving in different situations or conditions, and knowing your route. If your confidence ever wavers, don’t be afraid to brush up with some lessons.

5. Adapt to weather conditions

In Britain, we are lucky to experience four seasons. However, each comes with their own risk behind the wheel. Take your time depending on the conditions — be it foggy, windy, pouring rain or a sunny day.

Make sure you have the proper equipment: avoid being dazzled by the sun with a pair of sunglasses, make sure you have the correct tyres for driving in the snow, and ensure your windshield wipers are effective for driving in the rain.

Methodology and sources

Using the most recent Government figures available , we determined the most common causes of collisions in Great Britain by ranking the total number of incidents reported per contributing factor from 2022 data, based on reported road collisions, vehicles and casualties tables.

We also determined the locations where the greatest number of accidents occurred based on reported number of collisions per city.

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/reported-road-accidents-vehicles-and-casualties-tables-for-great-britain

All data is accurate and up to date as of March 2024.